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Observational study on variability between biobanks in the estimation of DNA concentration

Jay Brown1, Alexander N Donev2, Charalampos Aslanidis3, Pippa Bracegirdle4, Katherine P Dixon1, Manuela Foedinger5, Rhian Gwilliam6, Matthew Hardy7, Thomas Illig8, Xiayi Ke1, Dagni Krinka10, Camilla Lagerberg11, Päivi Laiho12, David H Lewis4, Wendy McArdle9, Simon Patton13, Susan M Ring9, Gerd Schmitz3, Helen Stevens7, Gunnel Tybring11, H Erich Wichmann8, William ER Ollier1 and Martin A Yuille1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Integrated Genomic Medical Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

2 School of Mathematics, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

3 Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, University Hospital Regensburg, Germany

4 Health Protection Agency Culture Collections, Health Protection Agency, Salisbury, UK

5 Clinical Institute of Medical and Chemical Laboratory Diagnostics, Medical University Vienna, Vienna, Austria

6 Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, UK

7 Cambridge Institute of Medical Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

8 Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Centre, Munich, Germany

9 Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

10 Estonian Genome Project, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

11 Karolinska Institutet BioBank, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

12 National Public Health Institute, Biomedicum Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

13 National Genetics Reference Laboratory, Central Manchester University Hospitals, Manchester, UK

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BMC Research Notes 2009, 2:208  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-2-208

Published: 13 October 2009



There is little confidence in the consistency of estimation of DNA concentrations when samples move between laboratories. Evidence on this consistency is largely anecdotal. Therefore there is a need first to measure this consistency among different laboratories and then identify and implement remedies. A pilot experiment to test logistics and provide initial data on consistency was therefore conceived.


DNA aliquots at nominal concentrations between 10 and 300 ng/μl were dispensed into the wells of 96-well plates by one participant - the coordinating centre. Participants estimated the concentration in each well and returned estimates to the coordinating centre.


Considerable overall variability was observed among estimates. There were statistically significant differences between participants' measurements and between fluorescence emission and absorption spectroscopy.


Anecdotal evidence of variability in DNA concentration estimation has been substantiated. Reduction in variability between participants will require the identification of major sources of variation, specification of effective remedies and their implementation.